Last week Hamilton Deputy Police Chief Frank Bergen appeared before Hamilton’s LGBTQ Advisory Committee. Along with Chief Bergen were Chief Administrative Officer Anna Filice, LGBTQ Liaison Officer Rebecca Moran, EDI Specialist Paola Jani, and Community Relations Coordinator Jasbir Dhillon. Moran was appointed to her LGBTQ liaison post even before the report into the 2019 Hamilton Pride violence at Gage Park had been submitted. Jani, who was appointed in January to head up Equity Diversity and Inclusion at HPS, has worked in anti-racism, anti-oppression, diversity and gender-based violence, at more than 19 non-profit organizations. For his part, Bergen came to the HPS after 35 years with the Toronto Police Service where he was recognized as a progressive leader in policing, with a reputation for treating people in a fair and equitable manner. Deputy Bergen played a key role in the Toronto Police modernization strategy, which included sweeping changes within the service.
It was the first meeting between Police and the LGBTQ committee since the retirement of former Chief Eric Girt, who had been seen as a lightning rod for criticism for his handling of the 2019 Gage Park violence and subsequent public statements he made.
Bergen prefaced his presentation with yet another apology for the Gage Park incident, and then got to the purpose of his appearance before the committee. He wanted to move forward on some of the recommendations made by the consultant report that was critical of HPS handling of the Gage Park Incident, writing, “The Service’s relationship with the Two Spirit and LGBTQIA+ communities is damaged and we have a long way to go in rebuilding trust. It is in this hope that I’d like to arrange a meeting to open the lines of communication and explore the potential to co-design the change that the communities would like to see in the HPS.”
So there it is—a seeming opportunity for a new start—a new chief and newly-appointed staff with specific mandates in the area of LGBTQ relations and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. An offer to allow the LGBTQ committee to provide input into ways of changing police culture. Progress, right?
Committee Chair Cameron Kroetsch said it would take more than this delegation to restore his trust, ignoring Bergen’s opening statement acknowledging the lack of trust—that he was looking for a way of moving forward with his new team in making a start on restoring trust. One of the attendees at the meeting then seemed to lay down a marker regarding what was described as HPS continuing to pursue Cedar Hopperton, the anarchist who was convicted and sentenced to a year in prison for organizing the Locke Street rampage in 2018 where a masked group of 15-40 people pelted buildings and vehicles with eggs and rocks and had earlier in the day invited people to attend a “militant and confrontational march.” Six businesses, 10 cars and a police cruiser were all damaged. Hopperton had her bail revoked for participating in a rally at Hamilton City Hall the day of the Gage Park incidents. The terms of her bail prohibited participation in such demonstrations. Why members of the LGBTQ community would want to squander their credibility by aligning themselves with a violent anarchist, who they incredibly refer to as “someone who stands up against violence,” isn’t clear; but it’s indicative of the social warrior mentality that increasingly is not interested in solutions, because that would require at least some temporary setting aside of grievance.
There was one positive development at the meeting, when committee member James Diemert seemed to question whether the broader LGBTQ community is actually represented by the LGBTQ advisory committee. ” Diemert told Chief Bergen, he was “on the right track” in seeking ways to interact with as many members of the LGBTQ community as possible. There’s going to be an enormous diversity of opinion and feelings around this no matter what.” To which Bergen replied, “warmly received James, thank you.”
Chief Bergen should now feel free to develop whatever engagement process he and his team of well-qualified community outreach experts can come up with–one that will best allow maximum input from the broadest cross-section of the Hamilton LGBTQ population, which if Stats Canada figures are accurate, numbers in the thousands. It is clear there is little to be gained by seeking further advice from the Hamilton LGBTQ advisory committee; indeed, there is reason to question whether this committee serves any useful purpose.